Cognitive Dissonance and Creativity

by SMD 

I’m spending quite a lot of time experiencing cognitive dissonance these days. What the heck is that? Here’s an example:

Researchers went to a grocery store and set up tasting booths in the store. On one table they had 24 jams that the people could taste. On another there were six different kinds of jams. As you would expect 60% of all people who stopped at the table with 24 jams tasted a jam. Only 40% of those stopping at the table with six jams tasted there.

What’s shocking? Listen carefully: 30% of all people who stopped at the table with SIX jams purchased one of the jams. Only 3% of people who stopped at the table with 24 jams purchased any of them!

This has been quoted from’s story: 7 Universal Principles of Influence. Too many choices. The internet in general is an ocean of dissonance. I’m sure the reason for the popularity of blogs is that they are like filters of dissonance. That’s why the best ones stick to a narrow theme or voice. It simplifies information gathering for the readers.

It is definitely true that in business you can have success by de-cluttering dissonance. However, dissonance is where magic happens. Even though dissonance and information overload can leave me scattered and drained, I have had the experience lately of not trying to escape that uncomfortable feeling and the results can be best described as breakthroughs.

Trying to create a business, being really determined to do it properly [no shortcuts, creating a solid foundation] and yet not having any money to spend on things like incorporation, accountant, staff etc. This is a dissonance. Move in one direction and the other bites you. I’m getting it though; the trick to dissonance is to stand still inside. Let all the competing forces move towards you. Let the business move into you. There really isn’t any conflict. There is only a perception of conflict in response to discomfort.

Dissonance forces are magic. When I can’t agree with my wife, eventually [admittedly after some drama] we come to a fantastic point of understanding where we can both be right. This place carries an expansion of love. Lately, I’ve been having the same experience with my business. Seemingly dramatically opposing forces have been melting with my willingness to stay calm and not react. A business is taking shape and ways of doing things that are new to me are appearing.

So go ahead and offer your customers the experience of reduced dissonance. But when you feel yourself having that experience, you may want to take a moment and decide not to try and solve the problem, but rather to allow it to be. It may be surprising to see what treasures that we have labelled as problems.

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2 Responses to “Cognitive Dissonance and Creativity”

  1. Nikki on June 12th, 2007 10:59 pm

    Congratulations on the business. Just let those ideas soak into you. It will be brilliant. How did you get the thumb tacks on your ads?

  2. Jon on June 12th, 2007 10:59 pm

    Thanks Nikki. The thumbtacks are only visible randomly [I'm testing]. I just built a little table and put the pictures in then put the ads beside them. I have seen some people claim they really ad to CTR. I’ll run them a month and then check the data.

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